Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning verses Mastering a Language

For many years, I have taught grammar classes, and I often teach advanced-level students. However, in many cases, although students have passed their previous classes to reach the advanced level, they still make many mistakes with basic grammar they should have "learned" in other classes. In other words, while they had a passing score to get to the next class (let's say, 75% or so), they were still missing about 25% of the content.

The result is that students have so many gaps in their learning that they haven't mastered the language at all. The common causes are (1) that teachers often don't recycle or test concepts that the students learn in previous levels and (2) students assume that a passing grade is sufficient for them and then they fail to review and learn the parts they didn't know in the first place.

Students just assume that since they are in the advanced class that they are advanced learners when they really lack a full, comprehensive, and solid grasp of the language.

What teachers can do to help students is to constantly recycle and test all of the gramamr points from all of the classes instead of just teaching new concepts. The more a teacher builds upon earlier grammar points, the more students can apply them better.

So, what has been your experience in studying grammar? What has helped you the most in learning or mastering the language? What can teachers do to help you? Please share your ideas.

Randall

Friday, August 21, 2009

Learning English From Native Speakers

For the most part, I teach grammar classes to ESL students in an intensive language program in the United States. One of the challenges my students face is that although some of them have native speakers as roommates (or at least associate with native speakers often), my students often feel confused because their friends don't always use the grammar we study in class. In fact, native speakers break the rules quite often or don't even know how to use English correctly, either by choice or ignorace.

However, my ESL students often can't tell the difference between accurate and incorrect usage of the language. Take a look at these examples:

  • I'm tired, so I want to lay down.
  • If I was in your situation, I'd go to the party.
  • Not getting enough sleep can effect your school work.
  • The student sleeps in class everyday.
I tell my students that if their goal is just to learn English casually for daily conversation, then knowing how to use the grammar precisely isn't as important as if you are studying the language for academic or professional purposes. Keep in mind that this is probably the same case in every language. People tend to use language that their peers and family use, whether it is correct or not.

Any comments on this? I'd be interested in hearing your opinions on this.

Randall

Monday, August 17, 2009

Favorite Travel Destinations

Most people have their own image of the ideal vacation or dream trip. For some, this might entail traveling to the beach and basking in the sun; for others, a stroll through city streets might just be the recipe for a nice day. Personally, I enjoy the outdoors, and an enjoyable hike in the mountains near my house is just the thing to pass the day.

In this picture, I took a nice 20 km hike with some of the family up towards Mt. Timpanogos, one of the highest peaks in this area. We saw beautiful flowers along the way, a number of birds and ground squirrels, and one of us caught sight of a moose.

The solitude and beauty of the area always seems to remind me of the blessings of this great world.

So, what is your favorite travel destination? Share your ideas.

Randall

Thursday, August 13, 2009

School Supplies: Needs or Wants?

With technology changing so quickly, one wonders whether certain things are really needed for school, or are they just wants that students can do without? For example, do students really need their own laptop to do their work? What about an iPhone, cell phone, or even textbooks?

What do you think a student really needs and what they don't? Should a student buy these things him/herself without asking a parent to do so? What are a child's responsibilities to pay for some educational expenses? Share your ideas.

Randall

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Regular Mail or Email?

Imagine that you want to send a message to a dear friend (partner, spouse, or significant other), and you have the choice of either sending a handwritten letter or an email message? Which would you send and why? Would it depend on the occasion? Please explain your answer.

Randall

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